Why should people learn to forage?
I have been asked this a lot lately. I have tossed this question around in my mind, thought about the positive and the negative views of foraging, the realistic need for survival skills, the idealistic romantic dreams of gathering your own wild food and the sustainable issues in between. So far, I have come up with this.
I think there are two parts to this question – 1. Why should people LEARN to forage and 2. Why should people learn to FORAGE
The first question is as important as the second.
Its is a skill that you have to learn by the physical act of learning from someone with experience, it’s not just a skill you can learn off the internet or read in a book. The tradition of passing down the knowledge of foraging is rare in our modern-day world, yet for most of our human existence we have sustained ourselves through this skill. Without learning, foraging can be deadly dangerous – if you can’t positively ID the plant you want to forage, you could get seriously poisoned. Since the rising trend of foraging, there have been numerous cases of food poisoning and even deaths. You have to know what time of year to harvest, what part of the plant to eat, how much to pick and how exactly to prepare it. Where you are foraging from is very important as you are not allowed to forage on private land or nature reserves, and should be aware of pollutants. Sustainability plays a huge role when foraging become fashionable. Lets face it, if everyone started foraging again, it would be detrimental to our environment by threatening its biodiversity and by unintentional disturbance to its ecosystem. That’s why we encourage people on our foraging courses to plant indigenous edibles into their gardens for a more sustainable and practical solution : backyard foraging. Our indigenous plants are more suited to this harsh African climate than regular fruit and veg anyway and should definitely be included into all food gardens. A lot of our Indigenous berry bushes and fruit trees make great security hedges and windbreaks and the wide variety of perennial wild herbs are pretty much maintenance-free once established.
The second question is a bit more personal…why do I think people should forage once they have learnt?
Its delicious, its nutritious, it’s a free form of clean, organic local food. I love the different range of wild flavours, the excitement as the season finally nears a favourite wild edibles time for harvesting, experimenting with new recipes and the delight in others enjoying the meal. Plant study is an ongoing love affair that never ends – the more you learn, the more there is to learn. There are so many wonderful stories, myths and muthi, power and traditions, behind our plants. Its empowering to have the knowledge to be able to feed yourself. It’s a joyous celebration of connecting with nature, understanding the seasons, being in touch with the tides and the moon phases. It’s a wonderful gift to be able to teach your children. Its indigenous food revival!